Maxim Usik is a freelance illustrator originally from Saint Petersburg, Russia, who has lived in many countries across the world. He is known for his style of clear editorial illustrations marked by humor, details, and wit.
“… Focus on your work, focus on finding the joy in what you are doing. Don’t look for quick results and remove your expectations …“
Can you please tell us a bit about your background? Please add at least one random interesting fact about you.
My name is Maxim Usik, I have been working as a professional illustrator since 2012.
I do beautiful and clear editorial illustrations marked by humor, details, and wit. My clients are top magazines (from Europe, Asia, and the USA) from the economy, business, science, and lifestyle sectors.
Originally from Russia, I moved to Finland to study at University at the age of 17. Since that, I have never lived permanently in Russia but in many other countries across the globe.
Random facts about me:
- Since childhood, my dream was to travel and work as an artist. My dreams became true.
- I started to work as a remote-work freelancer from my home back in 2002 when nobody even thought it was possible.
- I have experience of permanent living (more than 6 months) in many countries such as Finland, Germany (at the moment we live here), Bali, Indonesia and India
- Before becoming an illustrator I worked as a Graphic and Web designer.
- I have two passports from 2 different countries (double citizenship)
- When I travel I always bring with me my scanner, laptop, light table, pens and pencils, Wacom Tablet and pack of A3 and A4 papers. That’s a lot to carry!
- Me and my wife, we travel a lot. As I always have quite a lot of work to do, sometimes I find myself working from very funny and crazy places. Some random examples: Hindu Ashram in India, Bolivian desert city Tupiza, cross country sleeping bus in Peru, all kinds of restaurants and cafes, airports, trains, a cruise ship from Helsinki to Stockholm, Harbour in Argentina …
What inspired you to make art?
My father is a traditional visual artist, painter, and he always was the greatest example and source of inspiration for me.
At home we had many art books and paintings on the walls, so reading and looking through those books really inspired me to start drawing.
I grew up in Saint Petersburg, a city that is famous for its infinite number of art museums. My mom loved museums and so every weekend she took us to some exhibition or art museum.
Since the beginning, I knew I didn’t want to become just a ‘traditional visual artist’ who let’s say draws portraits or nature. I want to do art combined with communication and message.
Did you study at art school(s) or are you self-taught?
At age around 7-8, I told my parents I want to go to study art so they took me to the art school.
I also studied communication arts in college and Visual Arts at University and I truly believe the best way to become an artist is a self-study combined with some official studies. This is the best!
Aha moment was when I realized I could be much more successful if I do unique art with an expression of myself.
How did you develop your own art style? Where do you go for inspiration? How do you keep your creativity flowing?
I think for devolving your style you need to combine these things: draw a lot of what you want, look at a lot of other artists and start to copy some of their style elements (at the very beginning it even could be a copy).
But be careful to not copy just blindly, try to analyse what you like in their style and implement it in your works, accept your singularity and embrace it, start to enjoy your unique way of viewing things (this is the most difficult part).
How did you start making a living as an artist? What was your first paid art job?
In 2009, I had been working as a graphic designer for some years and I abandoned my drawing practice completely. I thought I didn’t really need it anymore.
At some point, though, I realized I was not happy with my work life. I didn’t feel like expressing myself, and I didn’t feel I am progressing anywhere. It was like a crisis.
So I started to think about what else can I do for a living. Then I recalled that I use to be an artist. So maybe I can do something out of it… So I started to draw again.
During 2009-2012 I worked like crazy. I still had my graphic design job (which occupied most of my daytime) but I clearly wanted to get rid of it. So I used EVERY free moment of my time to draw. I drew during weekends, holidays, nights, and evenings. Thank goodness my wife supported me during that time!
I sent my portfolio to all possible agencies and magazines. Without success. Nothing happened for a year or so. Then suddenly I started to get my first commissions mostly from my friends.
And then there came a great moment I still remember. I got an email from a very famous Finnish magazine with an offer to make a spot illustration for them. Only one. The budget was something like 120 euros. But for me, it was the best day of my life. I was jumping out of happiness :). Later on, this commission turned into a weekly half-page illustration and I worked with them for 7 or 8 years!!
Another year passed and I started to have enough work to finish with my graphic designer job which I did immediately. My boss couldn’t believe I am leaving the agency … he was shocked!
What do you live from as an artist now? What are your main income streams and what is the approximate % split of each?
I live 100% on my income from illustration work. I do 90% editorial and book illustrations. The rest is advertisements and some project illustrations. I work with an agent who brings me clients but I also have my so-called in-house clients.
What are you currently working on?
At the moment, I am working on an illustration project for Finnish McDonald’s, illustrations for the Swedish language school books, and illustration set from one lifestyle magazine
What do you think are the most important characteristics of an artist?
- Ability to pursue your purpose
- Ability to stay isolated for long time
- Desire to express yourself
What are the art tools and other products and services you can’t live without?
My laptop, Photoshop, scanner, ink pens, light table, Wacom Tablet. I am also using iCloud Drive to store files and Google Drive to store archive files and my emails. My YouTube and Spotify subscriptions keep me company throughout long working days.
What advice would you give yourself as a beginner artist? Or alternatively please include your favorite quote and the author.
I think that would be: Focus on your work, focus on finding the joy in what you are doing. Don’t look for quick results and remove your expectations. Don’t waste your energy into comparing yourself with others, everyone has his own unique path and that path will be different for each one of us. There is no pattern of success. The only rule is to love what you are doing.
Picasso: “Dont love yourself in World of Art but rather love The Art inside of you.”
Bhagavat Gita (holy scripture): “You have right to act, but not to the fruits (gains, rewards, fame, glory, money, etc) of the action. Do not allow rewards to be your motive for action, at the same time do not be attached to avoiding action.”
Get in touch with Maxim
Thank you, Maxim, for joining us today!
All artworks by Maxim Usik, used with permission.
Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am a full-time self-taught artist behind Art Side of Life® and a Top Teacher on Skillshare. I have 15 years of experience in the creative field as a concept designer, illustrator, art director, and now freelance artist, content creator, and art instructor. My goal is to help you get your creative groove on with Procreate and make awesome art through practical classes, tutorials, Procreate brushes, and guides on art tools, supplies and resources. About me »
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